"There is no alternative" to austerity and privatization? The Varoufakis papers of the Eurogroup meetings

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, the personalized anti-"tina", is currently the main enemy of the German-led mainstream technocrats of the "Eurogroup" due to his resistance to continue the austerity policies of the "troika". Anyone who (like some German newspapers) claims that "he and the Greek government are brash and asking a lot, but have not provided any papers of propositions or alternatives to the austerity programme at the recent Eurogroup meetings" is now debunked by the documents by Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis that have been published by www.capital.gr (the English version can be found here (via Robert Misik, Viennese journalist)

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis

The alternatives to be found in these papers can be summarized in four main points: 

a) a development bank instead of privatizations

"[W]e want to invest to reduce energy costs for medium and large scale industries, to support innovation, start-ups and to promote a shift towards sectors with comparative advantages and export potential such as pharmaceuticals, organic agriculture, light manufacturing, energy resources, with the emphasis naturally on renewables. (...)
Quick fire sales of public property, at a time when asset prices are deeply depressed, is not something that anyone would advocate.
Instead, the government will create a development bank which will incorporate state assets, enhance their equity value through reforming property rights and use them as collateral for the purposes of providing, in association with European investment institutions such as the European Investment Banks, funding to the Greek private sector"

b) investment instead of austerity with unrealistic growth goals

"We recognize the tremendous efforts made by your countries’ taxpayers to support Greece’s debt and maintain the integrity of the euro.
However, unrealistic, self-defeating fiscal targets have been imposed on our country and population and hence must be revised. A primary surplus target of 4.5% of GDP year-in-year-out has no historical precedent in any situation resembling that of Greece today. It will simply not be possible for our country to grow if we remain on the growth sapping austerity path imposed on our economy. It is also quite inconsistent with achieving a sustainably reduced debt-to-GDP ratio.
The new contract we propose to discuss with you should recognize this evidence."

c) fight against tax evasion and rent-seeking, stop policies undermining social cohesion

"The government undertakes to reduce tax evasion, tax immunity, smuggling, cartelsand rent-seeking. Reforms will improve the enforcement of income tax, VAT, and social contributions, and fight tax evasion with an emphasis on transfer pricing in large corporates active abroad. The government stands ready to discuss legislative proposals to reinforce the legal framework for an independent tax authority within the Ministry of Finance.
A full legislative package will improve the business climate and undermine rent-seekers, in particular in the oil sector, the financial sector, and the media. Public procurement procedures will be made more transparent and fair thanks to a more centralized system, efficient monitoring and e-procurement. Reforms will increase the overall efficiency of the public sector, with an objective to improve the quality of services delivered to every citizen. Policies undermining social cohesion have failed and will be dropped."


"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"? Sanctions and “twisting arms” or: On being on the right or wrong side in the “world of rules”

According to our business and political elites, we in Europe and North America (and, ideally, in all of “global society”) are living in a “world of rules”. According to our business and political elites, we in Europa and North America are living in a free and democratic society. According to our business and political elites, some countries have “left this world of rules” and thus have to be punished.

This "world of rules" (and Russia's "leaving it") was what Radoslaw Sikorski, former foreign minister of Poland, mainly spoke about at a talk on the Ukraine crisis at Harvard University in November of 2014. Yet, time and again, it is becoming increasingly clear, that these “rules” are just political tools – as President Obama put it recently, we occasionally have to twist the arms of countries that wouldn't do what we need them to do.“ Since 2004, a "Presidential proclamation allows the US government to ban foreign nationals whose corrupt conduct hurts US interests, without providing proof of the charges."

Radoslaw Sikorski (left) elaborating on and defining who is on the good and the bad side of the "world of rules", at Harvard University, Cambridge, Ma.,  November 20th, 2014

So it is up to Washington and New York, but also their transatlanticist (neo-)“liberal“ allies in Londo
n, Frankfurt and elsewhere (e.g. Warsaw) and some of their lackeys in the media, to define what is treated as corruption and what is not – i.e. there is “good“ corruption, white-collar crime and fraud, as long as it happens on Wall Street, K Street, in the City of London, at Frankfurt high-rises, at Brussels institutions, or in Ukraine, and “bad“ corruption or white-collar crime, in Greece, Russia, Hungaryor Venezuela etc. You can not only be on the right or wrong side of history, but also of corruption, geopolitics or the war on terror, as above countries and countless civilians in embattled conflict regions elsewhere have learned the hard way (by having their “arms twisted“ or as “collateral damage“ of austerity or "democracy promotion").
Many countries/regimes or armies/groups haved turned from Paulus to Saulus in recent decades, because they started challenging US domination or hegemony: the Mujaheddin, anti-Soviet allies in the 1980s, became the “Taliban“ and enemies in the 1990s, with a war against them starting in 2001; Iraq, an ally against Iran in the 1980s, turned enemy in the 1990s, with a war toppling the regime in 2003; Libya, a business partner until well into the 2000s, turned enemy at the beginning of the next decade, with the regime toppled in 2011; the Syrian opposition fighters, supported with arms, then turned enemies (ISIS/ISIL); Russia, a “friend and partner“ in the 1990s and in the “war on terror“ of the early 2000s, increasingly was seen as an enemy from the late 2000s, with NATO expansion into the Baltics and the war in Georgia, and now the current, even bigger conflict over Ukraine. Others, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, have always held US support despite the former's illegal settlement policy and war crimes in Palestine, and the latter's funding of Islamist terrorism (not to mention the human rights violations). They have always been exempt from “the rules“, and “more equal than others“.

The discord between the U.S. and Europe over their different approaches became increasingly visible ahead of Minsk II in early February

President Obama recently admitted that the US was more than just an benevolent bystander and its politicians more than purely coincidental visitors to Kiev (V. Nuland/J. McCain) in the "Maidan" conflict between pro-Western protesters and the government in Ukraine. These protests, that had started in late 2013, escalated in late January/early February of 2014 and led to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich almost exactly a year ago, on February 22nd/23rd. A treaty signed by all parties to the conflict, that would have set up a transitional government, was breached by the radical wing of the protesters, who toppled Yanukovich anyway - but as they were on the right side of the Western “world of rules“, they didn't have to stick to them. Subsequently, as a backlash of this coup and thus the expansion into what Russia perceives as its sphere of influence, the Kremlin annexed Crimea (important due to its Russian naval port Sevastopol), and an “anti-Maidan“, pro-Russian insurgency in the Donbass Region, in Eastern Ukraine, ensued. The US/NATO is allowed to expand its sphere of influence, Russia is not. On the other hand, the Kremlin hasn't acted in the most conciliatory manner either within the last few years; but diplomatic failures have also been committed by the EU/Brussels in its dealings with Russia over the envisaged EU membership of Ukraine. Most recently, though, for the first time since the run-up to George W. Bush's Iraq War in 2003, remarkable cracks in the transatlantic foreign policy axis are highly visible again.